Published: April 3rd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
My rating: 3/5
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?This book falls into the category 'Oh, I so wanted to like this one more than I did'... Grave Mercy was refreshing, to start with. I mean, a convent of nuns that trains their novices to become assassins? If that doesn't scream action-packed mystery, what does? The first-person present tense narrative sucked me in immediately. It starts out great, with Ismae escaping the arranged marriage to a brutal pig farmer to be taken to the convent and to find out that she was sired by Mortain, the god of death. In fact, I loved everything about the first act: Ismae as the main character, frail and vulnerable, but will-strong and refusing to be the victim; the beginning that promised a great action; the writing, compelling and edgy.
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
Possibly mild spoilers ahead:
But after that, when Ismae is assigned her first mission, I lost interest. I was able to tell who the rat was early on, so the greatest part of the book made me hmpf and umpf in irritation about the court intrigues. What they did around the court at times felt like flogging a dead horse. Even the nuns disappointed me, so did Gavriel Duval and Ismae. I didn't feel the romance, mostly because Ismae is quite cold and detached to the very end. Of the poison-mistress, by the end all we are left with is the mistress. What she shows at the court is a far cry from what we know she is capable of. I loved the authors opinion of the convent, and how Ismae decided to part ways with them. It came as a relief.
After the blind obedience, Ismae accepts that what the convent demands may not be what the god really wants done.
The ending was rushed. When we eventually learn who the traitor is and the motivation behind his deeds, there's no resolution to that plotline. Also, I wanted to know more about Sybella, as she's constantly mentioned in Grave Mercy and appears only for a few brief moments. Luckily, the sequel, Dark Triumph, will revolve around her. And the plot seems intriguing as well (I have my guesses who the knight in question might be), and I'll be on the lookout for it when it comes out.
La Fevers created an interesting concept and a set of characters that seem capable to kick your ass. Why they didn't...I don't know the answer to that. This book had its moments of greatness, laugh-out-loud, swoony and teary moments, but overall, I feel like it didn't live up to its full potential.
Have you read/reviewed Grave Mercy? Leave the link in the comments and I'll come to read what you thought!